Business BPL turns up at Casino

While energy companies trial broadband over powerline (BPL) access for residential customers, the technology is also gathering steam in the enterprise market where Brisbane's Treasury Casino is giving it a run.

The casino is in a heritage-listed building and it was prohibited from installing new network cabling for its plasma television network. But with BPL, the IP network runs through the building's existing power cabling to each television set.

Gavin De Livera, strategic business development manager of Scheider Electric's iLevo BPL business unit, which managed the project, said BPL is being applied for a number of point-to-point communications requirements where Ethernet doesn't reach.

BPL has also been applied to replace a microwave link at the Goonyella coal mine in central Queensland, he said.

"It needed point-to-point communications on a conveyer system where it had been using microwave system, but when it had to be moved was costing thousands of dollars every time," he said.

At the casino the BPL network is used to carry voice and data, and De Livera said the technology can deliver applications just like any other 200Mbps IP network.

"BPL isn't just about broadband subscribers; there are verticals within the IP space where you can apply it, for example, to extend a corporate LAN where you can't lay cabling or on a marina where you have power but no comms at the berths."

De Livera said another application is for IP cameras on shopping centre lights where again there is power but no network cabling.

"Once it's enabled it's everywhere on the power grid," he said, adding the business market is more mature than residential.

A BPL IP network supports VLANs with 3DES encryption and QoS "out of the box".

"It's very difficult to do packet sniffing as it's a closed network," De Livera said. "The network travels for around 700m then needs a repeater. It's not as cost effective as a LAN, but you can use an existing LAN or Wi-Fi infrastructure as a termination point."

However, without the need to install cabling, De Livera said a building can be BPL networked for 40 percent of the cost of a traditional Ethernet LAN.

Managing director of research firm BuddeComm, Paul Budde, said BPL providers will target the business market because "that's where the money is" and the alternative broadband potential is around 10 percent of the total market.

Managing director of BPL service provider Savant Corporation, Meyer Mussry, said BPL is basically a last-mile access technology which means it's "a piece of cake" to get it into a high-rise building.

"80Mbps is quite a lot of bandwidth to supply a number of offices, and in high-rises you have transformers in the building so you can deliver 80Mbps to each segment," Mussry said.

In the wake of Telstra's decision to scrap it proposed fibre to the node network, Mussry said enterprise BPL delivered by energy companies has an opportunity to break the last-mile monopoly, particularly in regional areas.

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